Home > Reviews > Live Reviews > 16/10/11 | Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Jericho Tavern, Oxford

16/10/11 | Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo – Jericho Tavern, Oxford

Lisa Ward


There are some people who seem to relish breaking the rules. Like the man who stands front centre stage refusing to sit, despite the fact that the rest of the Jericho Tavern have taken to the floor. Or Emily Barker, who informs us the singers scale is ‘do-re-me-me-me-me’ and is nevertheless overwhelmingly humble on stage. Yet simultaneously Emily and The Red Clay Halo carry a delicate weight, each song bringing its own sense of time and space through the subtlety of the arrangements.

Nostalgia is transformed from the recorded version, to bring with it something of a whisper, as if awakening the ghosts of which it speaks, whilst Billowing Sea couples a crash of emotion with sympathetic instrumentals. Throughout the set there’s a continual switching of instrument and style, Fields Of June drifting into the vibe of Eliza Carthy and Little Deaths shifting into Martha Tilston territory yet still it maintains a collective ethos, falling together as one.

Not content with a varied set, Pause from her latest album Almanac sees her continue to throw the rule book out of the window, Emily somehow managing to make a softer sound on her electric guitar (an instrument often synonymous with volume) than she does on her acoustic. Her duet with Dom Coyote on Witch Of Pitteweem seems to captivate the crowd most, resurrecting Scottish history, whilst her cover of Ewan McColl’s First Time Ever I Saw Your Face brings us face to face with raw emotion, giving Roberta Flack’s version more than a run for its money.

What’s most striking about tonight though, is the depth of the sound which that band create, the quartet building layers which fill the room. Emily and The Red Clay Halo seem to be a group of chameleons, able to switch style and subject in less than a blink of eye. Though the night is short, they take us on a journey of place and sentiment with grace and ease, culminating into a paradoxical sense of exhilaration and exhaustion by the time the night is out.

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